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Thursday, 7 October 2010

Key Club

After making it home from Wadi Hasa the week before last Paco, Katrina, and I shoveled the contents of the car into our arms and started for my apartment. At the door I dug through my bags to find the keys to my apartment and realized they weren't there. Katrina reminded me we put them in the glove box for the hike, so I went back to the car still carrying my stuff. I opened the car, set down a couple of things, grabbed the house keys, and locked the door. Then I rifled through my stuff and realized that I was missing my keys again, but this time my car keys. I went back to the Sunny, wiped a circle of dust off the passenger window and peaked onto the seat where my car keys were sitting.

I cursed myself a couple of times mostly because I knew I was going to have to call Ghazi at Diplomat Rental Car and tell him I locked my keys in my car, again. The first time I did it I walked around a mile to the Chili's on Mecca Street and got a virgin margarita in a sugar rimmed glass. Ghazi picked me up at Chili's drove me to my car and told me to use my key to lock the car door from the outside to prevent this from happening again. I told him I would do so diligently from then on and then didn't. Ghazi also gave me a small card and told me that the next time anything happened I should call the number on the card and someone would come to help, Arab AAA I thought to myself. This time around since I had my house keys and was home I decided to deal with it in the morning.

At around 11am the next morning I pulled out my trusty Jordanian AAA card and dialed the number. I told the guy on the other end that I locked my keys in my car and that I lived in Abdali between the Mosque and the Church. He told me to write down a number and call it. This next guy spoke less English and I gave him the same story. He said, "okay, someone call you in five minutes." Thirty seconds passed and someone called. This guy started rattling off in Arabic without pause, I cut him off briefly and said slowly, "Do you speak English?" He replied to my question without without a breath-- "NO!" I started to laugh and he did too. He went on in Arabic for a while longer and then hung up. A few minutes later another guy called, he spoke English well and kept calling me "Boss" and "Chief," I liked him. He asked me what was wrong and where I was. "I locked my keys in my car, I'm in Abdali between the Mosque and the Church." Everytime I repeated this the person on the other end appeared to know what I was talking about, I talked to around six different people in the span of fifteen minutes. The Chief guy called me again and said, "okay Boss, someone will be there in five minutes."

In the five weeks I've been here, I have noticed that "five minutes" has a big range. People say five minutes for everything. Once while waiting for some folks to show up at a cafe five minutes was an hour. Another time I talked to a guy on the phone and said I was waiting at the Hardee's parking lot, he said "okay, five minutes." He showed up in 10 seconds.

So... I went downstairs between the Mosque and the Church after 15 minutes. The onslaught of calls continued. The guy that spoke no English kept calling and all I could give him was "King Abdullah Mosque," around seven times. Then the other guy would call me and say "Hey boss, how's it hanging? Where are you?" Once he said "Hello my darling." He told me that the driver would be in a white, gray car and would be there in five minutes. I stood by the Mosque and waved stupidly at both white and gray cars. Nobody stopped.

After around half an hour a slight, well groomed man, with an oversized belt buckle showed up talking on the phone. This turned out to be Moayed. He kept talking on the phone and came and shook my hand. He handed me his phone. The guy on the other end said in perfect English:

"What is the problem with your car?"

I said "My keys are locked inside my car."

"Ohhhhh!"

I walked over to my car with Moayed. I pointed to the seat with the keys on it. He looked at me with disbelief and a hint of a grin. He kept talking on the phone. We sat on the curb and continued making calls, at one point he had both my phone and his on either ear.

After ten minutes of passing the phone and successfully identifying my two options through several rounds of charades: 1) smashing my window with a small hammer or 2) finding a second set of keys, I opted for the latter. Moayed motioned me to follow him. We started walking down the narrow streets of Abdali. We walked five or six blocks through a residential area and into the adjacent neighborhood of Jebel Weibdeh. After a few more blocks we came upon a guy leaning against a car, Moayed looked at me, pointed at the guy, and said "Hussein!" I looked at him and wondered why he was standing there. Then Moayed motioned across the street to a Mack sized white gray tow truck double parked on the tiny crowded street.

I pointed at the truck and then to myself as if to ask, "that's for me?" They nodded and we all started to laugh. Moayed seemed relieved that I finally got the joke. They waved for me to get in the truck. Moayed climbed up and got behind the wheel, Hussein sat bitch (or "the bitch seat" as my mom calls it), and I was shotgun. We started driving and Hussein looked at me, shrugged, and gave me the hammering the window charade. I shook my head. After an hour and a half of coordination, Moayed, Hussein, and I were driving a gigantic tow truck across Amman to pick up a spare set of keys for my Sunny.

We drove with the windows down through the buzzing streets of Amman. Within minutes Hussein started to rib Moayed and slap his leg good naturedly. Moayed poked back at him back and accelerated through the heavy traffic. A cab driver got cut off ahead of us and started waving his ams and yelling. We pulled up to the cab and Hussein leaned over me, out the window, and yelled something. The cab driver roared, as did Hussein, Moayed, and I as well. Hussein started to slap my leg as we drove and he continuously reached across Moayed laying down on the truck's air horn as Moayed grinned and swatted him away.

At one point Moayed successfully navigated a giant crowded roundabout at speed barely missing several cars. I pointed at him, did the international steering wheel sign, and gave him two thumbs up. He smiled broadly and told Hussein loudly in Arabic what I assume must have been "He said I'm a good driver!" then he lifted his arm high and slapped Hussein's leg with a thud.


We drove out towards Jordan University which is not close to my house. After finding number 85 and the Diplomat Rental Car Offices we walked in and Ghazi smiled at me and said "this is the second time Mr. Jonathan." In the five minutes we were there he repeated this phrase no less than three times. I reached out for the keys and told him I would drive them back when I got home. With a sideways glance he handed them to Moayed and said "Mr. Moayed will take them."

We piled back into the truck and started driving southeast back towards my apartment. After five minutes (seven minutes) we stopped and Moayed jumped out of the truck. He returned with three Nescafes and three waters. Not only did these two not get mad about showing up absurdly over prepared responding to the hapless foreigner, they chauffeured me across town, bought me coffee, and laughed and grinned the whole way.

Hussein spoke a little English and Moayed almost none, but they both knew one choice phrase which involved an F-bomb. They said it over and over again to eachother, to me, to passing cars, and to bystanders on the street. Finally, they looked at me expectantly, I repeated the phrase a couple of times and they roared and slapped knees all over the place. On the way home Hussein told me that Moayed was married to his sister. I said oh, "you are brothers in law?" Moayed affirmed the relationship with "I" and "F-bomb" and " his sister" which he repeated several times while also performing charades towards Hussein. Hussein sat, arms crossed, shaking his head, suppressing a grin.

As we made our way back to the Mosque I thought about how fortunate I was, through a series of mistakes, miscommunication, and kindness, to have landed in this truck. I hope I'll get the chance to ride along with them one more time for a day, tell some jokes, and slap some knees.

The Truck parked next to the Minaret that wakes me up at 4:30am.

Finally, we made it home and Moayed walked ahead to my car with the keys as I snapped photographic proof of my fortunate misadventure.


Moayed unlocked the car and handed me my keys. We shook hands, I thanked them, and they gave me their contact card. As the two left Hussein turned to me and said "Call next time you need the Cavalry."

4 comments:

  1. My favorite visual from this is you wiping the circle of dust off the window of the car. Reminds me of a little kid looking for Santa in the snow, though a lot more disappointing when you actually saw what you were looking for...

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  2. Yes, the lost keys. Any continent, any land - you'll end up meeting people if you want to drive again:>) Your mom told me about the Rick Steves man crush. Steves is an interesting guy - he's got a spiritual side, and wrote a book about how folks who DON'T want to travel are the ones who would benefit the most - get more open, understand folks better. Duh;>) But a neat guy. Maybe your dad is on to something...His book is "Travel as a Political Act" http://www.sacbee.com/2010/10/19/3113682/rick-steves-to-discuss-his-new.html

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  3. Awesome, I hope that offer to come stay with you is still valid, because I am unemployed and ready for some adventure!

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  4. Great story Jon, such a treat for you to have this experience.

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